Busted Halo
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Charles C. Camosy, PhD :
16 article(s)

Charlie Camosy is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University where he has been since finishing his Ph.D. in theology at Notre Dame in 2008. His book Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU (Eerdmans, 2010) was honored at the 2011 Catholic Media Association awards. Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization was released with Cambridge University Press in May of 2012. Charlie is also the founder and co-director of the Catholic Conversation Project and a member of the ethics committee at the Children's Hospital of New York.
July 5th, 2013

There is a new non-invasive procedure (a blood test or urine sample from parents) that allows pregnant parents to reveal the child’s DNA map before birth. This could discover illnesses in the child and prepare new mothers for the challenges ahead. Is this procedure okay?

In the abstract there is nothing wrong with this procedure, and it could be a beneficial and morally praiseworthy choice if it was directed at the benefit of the child. For instance, a couple worried that that they were particularly susceptible to having a child with genetic disease might need to save money to be able to provide medical care and otherwise prepare for this possibility. Their being prepared would not only benefit the family as a…

July 2nd, 2013

Question: I see that there is a medical expert onboard, and I would like to inquire whether or not the pill can abort fetuses, yes or no? Is this a valid concern, recognized by all medical professionals, meaning understood to be a possibility by medical experts who do not practice Catholic faith?

If by “the pill” you mean the contraceptive pill, the answer is “probably not.”  While the drug companies themselves used to market the claim that the pill would also change the lining of the uterus so that an embryo could not implant, even the best pro-life medical researchers today think this is a dubious claim.  Furthermore, it may be important to note the difference between a direct abortion…

June 18th, 2013

The Catholic Church is pro-life, and this not only means “not killing” and “actively supporting” life, but it also means being open to new life as well. The Church therefore obviously wants to support the desire of married couples to be parents, but to do so in a way that is in line with God’s intention for how flourishing children come into the world. Thus all technologies that are designed to aid the mechanisms God has given us for procreation are perfectly acceptable, according to the Church. Women and men can take drugs or have surgeries to improve their fertility or their sexual capabilities, for instance.
However, the Church wants to push back against our culture’s understanding that children…

June 8th, 2013

Question: Why is the church so focused on banning contraception when over-crowding and overpopulation are greatly dwindling the earth’s resources?…
The Church is not trying to “ban contraception” — though given some of the recent media coverage I can understand why someone might think that it is. What you are probably referring to is the mandate of our new health care system that employers provide contraception for their employees. The Church is concerned that though obviously religious institutions (like churches and parishes) are exempt from the mandate, some others (like Catholic hospitals and universities) are not. Especially given that what many believe are abortion-causing drugs

January 25th, 2013

Q: Don’t animals have rights? Why doesn’t the church consider that animals have a soul? Shouldn’t we all be vegetarians? …
It depends what you mean by “rights.” If you mean a set of things that only a moral and self-aware creature can have, then non-moral and non-self-aware animals obviously do not have rights. But if by “rights” you simply mean a set of claims against being treated immorally, then lots of animals have rights. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims that it is seriously immoral to cause animals to suffer and die without great need.
But let’s not get distracted by talk of rights. Non-human animals can and do suffer at the hands of cruel human

January 23rd, 2013

Q: Why can’t I decide how I will die? Why doesn’t the church allow for physician-assisted suicide if the person doesn’t want to suffer?
One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is that our lives don’t belong to us. They belong to God and to the good of our most vulnerable neighbors. Just as our lives are not ours to do with as we wish, the same holds true for our deaths. The Church claims that God has created each of our lives with such worth that we can never directly act against their good. We are never to aim at the death of an innocent person–even if that person is us.
This is perfectly consistent with aiming at something else (pain control, avoiding over treatment, etc) where one…

January 16th, 2013

What we call “science” today was first practiced at European universities founded by the Catholic Church. Almost no serious religion rejects science. However, history is littered with rejected scientific theories once assumed to be true, and because it is often difficult to tell whether scientific progress will produce good results, some religions are more careful than others when deciding to support certain scientific research.
Sometimes scientific progress is seen as a good in itself. Some believe that we should just move science and technology forward simply because we can. But religions, while obviously supportive of advances which help the common good, often perform the role of looking…

January 11th, 2013

Q: Why is the church so focused on banning contraception when over-crowding and over population is greatly dwindling the earth’s resources?

A: The Church is not trying to “ban contraception” — though given some of the recently media coverage I can understand why someone might think that it is.

October 19th, 2012

There are a number of ways to answer this extremely difficult question. First, the Church will never say it is OK to “aim at the death” of either your wife our your prenatal child — both are always going to be wrong. Life is of irreducible value and it is never acceptable to choose that an innocent person should die in order to bring about some other thing — even the very good thing of saving the life of someone else. This is the “Peaceable Kingdom” of non-violence into which Jesus calls all of his followers.
However, there may be times where one can choose to save one person while also “foreseeing but not intending” that one will therefore not be able to save someone…

October 12th, 2012

Question: The new ban on large sugary drinks in New York City has me wondering, was I indulging in gluttony each time I had a 20 oz. soda? Was that a sin?
Like the answer to many questions about ethics, “it depends.” Is the drinking of the soda helping or hurting your living a flourishing life? Not all drinking of such soda is bad, but if it is hurting your health and your state of mind, then it is probably a bad idea to be drinking it. It is only “gluttony” if you are caught in a vicious cycle of addiction to this and other kinds of sugar and/or caffeine. If drinking such sodas are part of your life such that you find difficult to stop, then chances are you are caught in a gluttonous cycle and need to get…

August 22nd, 2012

The Church of our day refuses to claim that someone is in Hell — even if their last act was to kill themselves. Yes, it is always intrinsically evil to aim at the death of an innocent person, and this includes one’s self. But especially in this context, “intrinsically” does not mean “very.” Determining the level of guilt in another person (aside from being something only God can do) is always different from determining whether what they did was morally wrong. Suicide is almost always driven by powerful forces which are beyond the control of the person — especially when it involves mental illness. It is always wrong in the abstract, but the person who does it is often not blameworthy.
This question…

July 26th, 2012

This is a very, very complicated question. In general, it should be said Catholic theology offers wide freedom to valid decision-makers to remove even life-sustaining treatment. We are finite creatures and should not grasp for more life when it is unjust or when the burdens of medical treatment outweigh its benefits.
Still, human persons have has irreducible value and should never be radically reduced to some other end by aiming at their death—whether that reduction is by an act (say, giving an overdose of pain medication) or by refusing to act (say, by refusing to give food or fluids). One may do something (or refuse to do something) that results in death as long as one is aiming at something else—but one may…

July 12th, 2012

The Catholic Church is pro-life, and this not only means “not killing” and “actively supporting” life, but it also means being open to new life… as well. The Church therefore obviously wants to support the desire of married couples to be parents, but to do so in a way that is in line with God’s intention for how flourishing children come into the world. Thus all technologies which are designed to aid the mechanisms God has given us for procreation are perfectly acceptable, according to the Church. Women and men can take drugs or have surgeries to improve their fertility or their sexual capabilities, for instance.
However, the Church wants to push back against our culture’s understanding that children

June 19th, 2012

The Church is strongly in favor of stem cell research. Indeed, it has funded and even led conferences in attempts to find medical solutions via stem cells. The Church has almost always supported science, and even the Galileo affair was really an argument about whether he had actually proven his claims about relationship of the earth and the sun scientifically. (Many secular scientists believe he had not.)
The Church objects to killing fellow members of the species homo sapiens… in order to get the benefit of embryonic stem cell research science. Nazi Germany showed us that science and medicine need to be disciplined by morality, and the Catholic principle that “it is always wrong to aim at the death of an innocent

June 12th, 2012

The Church claims special authority to speak only about matters concerning faith and morals, but also asks Catholics (and all those of good will) to consider its arguments about other matters. Though it isn’t a question of faith or morals, the Church clearly and overwhelmingly sides with the scientists who argue that climate change is happening. Pope Benedict has written about this numerous times, and especially because of his focus on ecological concerns in Caritas in Veritate… he is now being called “The Green Pope.”
On a moral level, the pope asks each of us to radically question our own consumerist lifestyles and have a concern for others first — and not just those that exist today,

December 19th, 2008
The Vatican's "Dignitas Personae" has powerful things to say about complex medical issues... but is anyone listening?


“Spare us from the Pharisees and Scribes pretending to be concerned with life!”
“It’s ridiculous that we’re still pitting science against religion in the 21st century.”
“The Catholic Church, once again, remains in the middle ages with its teachings.”
“Dear Vatican & co.: please go away.”

To say that the reactions to media stories on the unveiling of Dignitas Personae were resistant and hostile—those listed above appeared in comments to articles in the National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times—is probably an understatement. For many, this latest document is simply more evidence of a Church that is anti-science and anti-technology,

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